Why does my Fishbone Cactus have yellow leaves?

Last Updated: May 27, 2022

Loved for their unique zig-zag leaves, the Fishbone Cactus is a great low maintenance plant that can adapt quite well to a range of environments. However, just because they are a little hardier than some other houseplants, doesn’t mean that you won’t encounter the odd issue such as yellow leaves. Luckily you’ll find that yellowing of the foliage isn’t super common but that doesn’t make it any less worrying. 

There are two main causes of yellow leaves on a Fishbone Cactus, overwatering and over-fertilisation. We will go through each of these reasons in more detail below so you can determine which is causing the yellowing, as well as how to fix the issue and stop it from happening again.

Overwatering is a common cause of yellowing for Fishbone Cacti

More often than not, overwatering will be the cause of your Fishbone Cactus’ yellow leaves. Although they have Cactus in the name the Fishbone Cactus is actually a succulent meaning they really don’t need that much water to thrive which can mean the soil can become waterlogged quite quickly. This soggy soil will mean the roots will rot and your plant won’t be able to take in the nutrients it needs. The first sign of this is yellow leaves so thankfully you should have caught the problem quite early on.

If you think that your Fishbone Cactus has been overwatered then you must check the moisture levels immediately. Take your plant out of its pot, or use a moisture meter or finger method to check if the soil is too soggy. 

If there is too much moisture in the soil then there are a few things you must do straight away to fix the problem and avoid any more yellow leaves from developing. Trim away the dead mushy roots and replace the entire potting mix so your Fishbone Cactus can begin to recover. One added tip is to put in some small pebbles at the bottom of the pot as this will stop the drainage holes from getting blocked by clumps of soil and means excess water can run out of the pot.

Overfertilisation could also be the issue for your Fishbone Cactus

Another potential cause of yellow leaves in Fishbone Cacti is too much fertiliser. This can be either fertilising your plant too often or using too much each time you do it. 

At most, you want to be fertilising a couple of times throughout the growth period of spring and summer and not at all during winter. If you are fertilising more than this then it could be the cause of the yellow leaves on your Fishbone Cactus. Another issue is the concentration of the feed. Make sure you are fertilising less than the recommended amount on the bottle. Each plant is different and factors like maturity, size and environment all impact how much you need to fertilise so make sure to err on the side of caution.

Those are the two main reasons why Fishbone Cacti develop yellow leaves. Luckily, as these two are very different causes it makes it a lot easier to diagnose than some other issues. First, rule out watering issues as these are more dangerous to the health of your Fishbone Cactus and if the overwatering has been going on for a while, bringing your plant back to full health can be a challenge. But don’t give up on your plant until you really have to as they can bounce back from a lot! 

If you do find that you can’t save your plant, then you might look to propagate your Fishbone Cactus so that you can grow some of the healthy parts.

To learn more about how to best take care of your plant, take a look through our Fishbone Cactus care guide. 

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